Platform work needs a European framework
Digital platforms operate across borders. At EPSCO, European ministers of labour and social policy discussed the growing importance of the platform economy, the need for action and possible approaches to a European solution.
Platform work is developing at a dynamic pace, and it is doing so in an international context. After all, if the work is being done purely online, it matters much less where exactly the work is being done from. Underlining the European component of platform work and identifying ways of shaping this sphere of work together at a European level is one of the BMAS focus areas for the current German presidency of the Council of the European Union. Following the peer review conducted in October at the working level, discussions on the topic of platform work at EPSCO, the European Union’s council of social policy and labour ministers, held on 3 December 2020 marked a milestone in ongoing policy development with regard to the subject of the platform economy in the EU.
„The question at hand is if we will succeed in leveraging the opportunity digitalisation provides here on behalf of our own sovereign European path forward. I think we need a European vision of how we can apply the principles of a social market economy in concrete terms to online platforms and the digital economy as a whole!“
Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Hubertus Heil
Platform work needs legal clarification across Europe
The discussions made it clear that platform work as a new form of work organisation was being observed in all member states and that its development potential is being taken very seriously. Though the opportunities it offers were emphasised, the risks, too, of unregulated platform work for often self-employed workers was given ample consideration.
There was widespread agreement that clarification of the legal and social status of platform workers was of central importance, as their situations currently confer a variety of rights and obligations. Many of the ministers also shared the insight that in many cases self-employed individuals in the platform economy had a need for employment protections comparable to those of employed in the conventional sense. Possible solutions put forward in the course of discussions involved the introduction of a new employment status category for platform workers or the opening of key labour and social rights to such self-employed individuals, for instance.
European Commission to table legislation on platform work
A further key aspect considered was that European antitrust law be designed in such a way that self-employed platform workers are able to organise collectively and conduct collective wage negotiations.
The Commission has announced that it will be introducing a legislative proposal regarding platform work in 2021. Through these activities during the German EU Council presidency, the topic of platform work has been embedded successfully in labour and social policy agendas and initial foundations have been laid on which further discussions can build.